The Office of the Governor and many of the agencies related to helping those with disabilities are collaborating to jumpstart the CNMI’s first Disability Sports Festival for athletes from Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
The festival will be funded through a $70,000 sub-grant under the Office of the Governor to provide sporting opportunities to 15 participants from Tinian and Rota each, and 40 participants from Saipan.
Aside from the Office of the Governor, others involved in this project are the Office of Grants Management and State Clearinghouse, the Lady Diann Torres Foundation, the Council on Developmental Disabilities, Center for Living Independently, Voices of the CNMI, Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems, Inc., the Northern Marianas College University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. Division of Public Health Services, Ayuda Network, Community Guidance Center, Rotary Club of Saipan, Office of Youth Affairs, the Division of Youth Services, and the Public School System.
“This is a large collaborative undertaking to celebrate and bring together and highlight developmental disabilities and the diversity that exists in our community,” said OGM administrator Epiphanio E. Cabrera Jr. “I met with Nick Gross who serves as the athletic program director at the Public School System and informed him of the funding opportunity to bring this event to the community, especially as the Lady Diann Torres Foundation had approached our office with the project idea a year ago.”
Recollecting her years as an educator, first lady Diann T. Torres said that students with disabilities are often forgotten after they leave the education system.
“I reached out to the agencies who’ve been there from the beginning and have championed the rights of our brothers and sisters with disabilities. We’ve come together to create awareness and to celebrate our diversity. This is just one of many initiatives, and, along with the vision of a One-Stop Disability Center, we can improve upon and align the initiatives of all disability partners and stakeholders,” Torres said.
Gross himself is excited about the project. “Working closely with NMPASI, we produced a proposal for the event and have been very excited by the overwhelming support of collaborating agencies to make this a reality.”
He said the event is tentatively pegged for this July 2018.
“Overall, this will serve as a goodwill participatory celebration focusing on adaptive sports. This event will serve as an awareness campaign to identify sustainable funding to ensure this event continues on an annual basis,” he added.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres commended the disability network for coming together to bridge a gap and fulfill something that has not been done before in the Commonwealth.
“I’ve met many passionate individuals with and without disabilities and one thing remains certain is that we are much stronger when we support one another and foster our youth. I am always so amazed by what can be accomplished when we all work together and I thank my wife, Diann, for always looking out for those with special needs and the community. I am very grateful that we can push this forward and thank everyone for their collaboration,” Torres said.
Cabrera said the sports festival would also identify sustainable funding sources that would allow this to become an annual event in March in observance of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
“In the end we know this meaningful project is intended to provide access to sporting opportunities and healthy recreational activities through community partnerships for individuals with disabilities. …We will provide more details as we get closer to the festivities and encourage community to join in on the celebration,” Cabrera said.
Target dates for the sports festival is July 5-8, and will feature sitting volleyball, boccia/bocce, swimming, athletics, adaptive softball, and outrigger paddling.
For more information about joining, contact Jim Rayphand at NMPASI at 235-7273. (PR)